Going green has earned some green of another sort for Leamington District Secondary School’s Eco Team.
During a morning assembly in the school’s gymnasium Tuesday, Apr. 4, the organization announced that it had won the Ontario high school division of the Staples Canada Superpower Your School Contest, presented annually in partnership with Earth Day Canada. Each of the country’s 10 winning schools — one secondary school and one elementary school from five regions across Canada — was granted a prize of $25,000 courtesy of Staples Canada to be spent on future environmental programs and events.
“It’s amazing,” said LDSS Eco Team minister of the environment Layla Bakaa, who led the assembly’s presentation along with Eco Team prime minister Isabel Gossen. “At first, we were reluctant to participate (in the Staples contest), because we knew there was a lot to do. Mrs. (Lisa) Jeffery helped us out though, and let us know what we had to do. We feel that we deserved it. We’ve done so much in the community.”
“I was pretty surprised because it’s such a big award,” added Gossen. “We’re very honoured and excited about it.”
This year, more than 700 elementary and secondary schools across Canada submitted a bid for the Superpower Your School Contest award, given to one school at each level in five regions — British Columbia/Yukon, Western, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic. The LDSS Eco Team was announced as one of the 100 finalists for the second year in a row in March of this year. The local school was informed by Staples Canada that it was one of 10 winners this year via a phone call about two weeks ago.
During the school’s assembly on Tuesday, Staples Canada general manager Tara Noel addressed the group to describe her company’s own environmental initiatives as well as to explain why LDSS was chosen as a winner for 2017. Noel described the school’s ban of plastic water bottles, its push for an idling bylaw in Leamington and its partnerships with the Essex Region Conservation Authority in both marsh monitoring and phragmites removal programs as leading factors in its selection as one of 10 $25,000 winners.
Gossen and Bakaa weren’t the only representatives of the Eco Team who felt that LDSS was deserving of the award.
“Overall, our waste reduction over the past two years has been quite significant,” said Jeffery. “Everyone here is using reusable containers. From here, I think it’s just going to improve — we have quite a reputation to live up to now.”
The Leamington school’s Eco Team will invest its $25,000 toward the development of the marsh-monitoring app being created by the LDSS computer science department. Establishment of the app began under the leadership of student Tyler Friesen and then by Myles Thiessen, who is completing and fine tuning the program to make it more user friendly. Currently, it is geared toward availability on Android-backed devices but will soon be accessible to Mac items as well.
The prize money will also be used to purchase a new 3D printer from Staples, which will allow the school to design and create replacement pieces for local elementary school games so that they don’t have to be discarded as additional landfill waste. Pieces will be made using biodegradable materials such as bamboo and coffee grounds. The printer, to come at a cost of about $5,000, will not emit toxic fumes.
Money from the Staples Canada prize will also go toward the purchase of a laptop and projector for outreach programs that bring the Eco Team to neighbouring elementary schools for environmentally-themed presentations.
Awards won by the LDSS Eco Team last year included the Ontario Eco Schools Eco Action Challenge ($1,000) and Windsor Essex Environmental Commission Award ($500).